Camp NaNoWriMo: My Experience

If you read my last blog, you’ll know that this is my first experience with NaNoWriMo and that my goals were to complete my novel and establish a daily writing routine.

CampNaNoWriMo was more challenging than I anticipated, but I’m so, so impressed with my progress! I documented my progress week by week, including my overall word count, capturing my ups and downs, and why I think every writer should try and take part in a NaNoWriMo at least once.

If you took part this month, let me know how you got on below! 

Week 1, 1st – 7th July

I started off this month feeling extremely productive and motivated, determined to smash out my daily word targets. And the first four days in a row, I exceeded my daily goals by decent amounts, earning my 5k badge on Saturday 4th! It’s times like this that make me wonder why I find writing so hard (a few reasons come to mind, but let’s just ignore them for now…)

Sunday, 5th July is the first day I didn’t meet my target; I’ve only written 334 words, but seeing as I’d gone over my target each day before that, I don’t mind so much. Still optimistic. 

Update: I’ve made up for this slump by exceeding my daily word count for the next two days!!

Word Count: 7,670

Week 2, 8th-14th July

Started the second week in a bit of a slump. I’m losing motivation as I’ve reached a point in my novel where I’m building up to a major plot point. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure of wanting to create the perfect build-up, or if I’m just losing motivation in general, but I can’t seem to write as much as my first week. I’ve also started my period and work is stressing me out a little, so not helping! Hoping things will be better by the end of it.

Also, I’m finding the website’s word count really depressing. It gives you a daily target, which can be different from what I’ve set myself. It makes me feel like I should be writing more than I am, especially on the days I’m too busy to write huge amounts. Trying to ignore it, but it can be hard to.

Saying that I earned my 10k badge on Thursday (!!!) and I’ve noticed that I’m finding it easier to prioritise my writing over other things. I would always clean and do general adult stuff before settling down, which wouldn’t usually be until late in the evenings, an hour or so before bed. But now, life waits while I get those words down! Just hoping that I can write some more by the end of the week…

Word Count: 16,352

Week 3, 15th-21st July

I’ve just taken part in a live NaNoWriMo Write-In. It was my first one and I loved it! I usually procrastinate so much when it comes to my writing; every 400-500 words, I’ll pick up my phone, start reading blogs, or even stare at the wall! But this time, I was able to stay so focused in the hour, and the short-timed sessions helped me bang out more words quickly. Looking forward to next week.

Also, feeling incredibly happy as on the 17th, I reached 20k words, halfway there!

I am starting to feel a bit nervous, as the last few chapters I need to write lead up to the end of the novel. Only two major plot points are left. That thought just terrifies me. I think it’s where I’ve been writing this novel on-and-off since university, so approaching the end after living with my characters for so long is simultaneously sad, daunting, and exciting. I’m still unsure if anything I’ve written is good or if anyone will like it, and I’m so scared to send it out to beta readers. I know I need to push those thoughts away for now, else it will put me off finishing, but that’s easier said than done, of course. 

If you’ve ever completed a novel, have you ever felt this way?

Word Count: 25,176

Week 4, 22nd – 28th July

An awful week this week. I haven’t had the time to write much, and when I do, I’m struggling to put anything down. I think it’s because I’m building up to the climax of my novel, and I want it to be incredible. I’ve concentrated on reading this week too, hoping that will give me a creative boost.

In case you’re interested, I’m reading Pride and Prejudice, an old favourite! What are you guys reading at the moment?

Word count: 31,317

Week 5, 29th – 31st July

So not technically a full week, but there we go.

I can’t believe the end is in sight! I’ve got 9k words left to complete my goal, although I’m still trying (and failing) to catch up with my daily word count. I’ve got a ticket to a virtual event with HarperCollins this week about getting your novel published with an agent, so hopefully, that’ll motivate me to finally finish my book. (Update: the talk was fantastic, so insightful!)

Just completed the final NaNoWriMo virtual write-in, and I think I wrote the most in that hour than I have all week so far! Closing the gap between where my word count should be and what it is right now, only 4,000 words behind, and 8,000 words to go for my overall goal. I’m busy Thursday and Friday, so I will be staying up late tonight and making the most of any spare minutes I can find tomorrow onwards.

Afterthoughts – did I reach my Camp NaNoWriMo target?

Final word count: 35, 311

Unfortunately, I did not reach my target. In the end, I had 4,689 words left of my overall goal, but I was busy the last few days of the month, so I didn’t have the chance to catch up in time.  

However, I don’t feel defeated. My main goals for this challenge were to complete my novel and establish a daily writing routine. About halfway through the month, I realised that I need a lot more than 40,000 words to finish my novel, so I stopped worrying about that goal and instead just focused on just getting through the middle of the story. And now, I am past that awkward stage and am almost at the end! The next chapter will be the start of the final climax – I never thought I’d get this far so quickly! I’m so pleased I participated in this challenge as it would have taken me ages to get to this stage otherwise. This challenge certainly gave me the push that I needed.

As for my second goal, I am proud to say that I’ve written every day this month. My writing streak is 31 days, and I’m hoping to continue that for as long as possible! Some days I wrote over 2,000 words, while others I barely wrote 200, but that’s OK because I knew this would happen. Everyone has those days where coming up with over 1,000 words every day can feel as painful as drilling a screw into your brain. All that matters is that I got something down every day.

I will definitely be taking part in NaNoWriMo in November, although I’m already feeling nervous about the target! I’ll be practising a lot between now and October. Will you be taking part?

My next steps are to write the remaining 4,000 words, probably using old NaNoWriMo write-ins to help me stay motivated, and then just focus on finishing my novel.

Did you take part in Camp NaNoWriMo? If so, what was your goal, and did you reach it? Let me know how you did in the comments!

How I’m Preparing For Camp NaNoWriMo

If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll know that I’ve signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo next month!

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is a challenge where you need to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. The main event takes place throughout November, but two camps (smaller versions of this challenge) occur in April and July. The difference is that you get to choose what you write and how much – a short story collection, poetry, whichever you prefer.

For my Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to set 40,000 words as my target. The reason for this is because I’m using this event to finish my novel, of which I’m already over halfway through, so I don’t think I need 50,000 words to finish it (fingers crossed).

Obviously, completing NaNoWriMo is going to be tough if you don’t prepare. So I’m prepping as much as I can, based on the advice I’ve been given from other NaNoWriMo’ers and what I’ve read online. I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt so far to help anyone else starting out on their journey.

Set a realistic target

As aforementioned, Camp NaNoWriMo allows you to set your own writing target.

It’s tempting to set a small goal that you know you’ll reach. For some, it can also be tempting to set yourself a larger target that’s more challenging, as it seems more impressive and the reward will be greater.

The issue with doing either of these is that they’re not realistic goals. Smaller targets that you find easy do not push you enough, but challenges that are too far-fetched are going to make you feel worse about your work; you’ll feel that they’re unattainable, so you’re more likely to give up.

Set a target that you know you can reach, as long as you put in the effort. You’ll achieve more and meet your word count in no time!

Schedule your time

To complete NaNoWriMo, you need to prioritise writing above pretty much everything else (aside from socialising, and general self-care, of course). It’s recommended that you create a schedule for the month so you can assign individual word counts for each day, based around how much time you’ll have.

I’ve made a calendar using Google Sheets, on which I’ve noted my writing targets, as well as space to fill in my total daily word count. It’s a quick and easy way to track my progress, and it saves automatically so I can access it at any time.

Research as much as you can beforehand

Picture this: you’re typing frantically, your fingers struggling to keep up with the speed of your brain, but then you need to stop. You’ve reached a point in the chapter where more research is required; you can’t continue until you’ve double-checked transport methods from the 1300s, or there’s some war going on but you can’t remember the date of one of the battles.

Research can be incredibly time-consuming, depending on the topic. As I’m writing historical fiction, I’ve made it my goal this month to research as many topics as needed. Earlier this month, I plotted my remaining chapters in more detail. Then, I added another tab in my Google sheet for crucial facts I’ll need when writing next month. This way, I won’t get caught up in finding the info I need to keep writing.

This is especially handy if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands – there’ll be nothing holding you back from getting those words down.

Get reading

As Stephen King said:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

The more we read, the better writers we become. Therefore, reading is one of the best ways you can prepare yourself for Camp NaNoWriMo.

Personally, my writing is 100x better when I’ve been reading a lot. The right words come to mind more swiftly and I spend less time imagining how long I need to bang my head against a wall to get my brain working.

Try and read a book that’s related to your writing project; it could be from the same genre, the same author, or it could have similar plot elements. Anything that will keep inspiring you throughout the month will be a huge help.

Check out NaNoWriMo’s site

The NaNoWriMo website is a web of resources for anyone participating at any point during the year. You’ll undoubtedly find something you need from the prepping ideas on their blog, and the forums and local groups.

NaNoWriMo is a community, something you’ll sense as soon as you start exploring their webpages. I personally love the various writing groups hosted by your local area rep. Obviously, we can’t all meet in person at the moment, but your rep will share resources to help you prepare, motivate you as you tackle your writing project, and keep you updated if need be.

You feel like you’re apart of something incredible when you join, meeting new people up and down the country, coming together to write.

Be kind to yourself

Last one, but certainly not the least.

Writing is hard; we all know that. No one will write a perfect chapter every single day next month – it’s impossible. What will happen is that some days we’ll write something we’re happy with, and then on other days, we’ll maybe write five words max, or 1000 words that we’ll want to delete.

I started writing in notebooks over my laptop when I realised that I spent more time editing on my computer than actually putting words down. It would take me half hour to write a paragraph because I kept deleting sentences, hoping I could come up with something better.

But NaNoWriMo isn’t like that. In fact, it doesn’t allow that to happen. This challenge is all about building a writing habit and getting as much down as possible, whether it’s perfect or not. And it won’t be, especially if, like me, you’re writing a first draft.

So don’t beat yourself up if you’re unimpressed with your work so far. Don’t worry if you’re struggling to come up with beautifully-crafted descriptions; just jot down some sentences, and you can work on them later. Nor does it matter if 10 words are all you can conjure one day. It happens.

Just relax, breathe, and remember why you’re doing this. I’ve made several motivational notes to stop me from criticising myself and take a break if I need to, which hopefully will help!

Remember, it doesn’t matter how many words you write in a day. You just need to hit your target by the end of the month.

We got this.